Biden + Harris = ?

Kevin D. Williamson:

Joe Biden has named his 2020 running mate: authoritarianism.

American prosecutors wield awesome and terrible powers that lend themselves easily to abuse, and Senator Kamala Harris, formerly the attorney general of California, is an enthusiastic abuser of them.

Harris was a leader in the junta of Democratic state attorneys general that attempted to criminalize dissent in the matter of global warming, using her office’s investigatory powers to target and harass non-profit policy groups while she and her counterpart in New York attempted to shake down Exxon on phony fraud cases.

Until she was stopped by a federal court, Harris was laying subpoenas on organizations such as the Americans for Prosperity Foundation, a conservative-leaning group that is critical of Democratic global-warming proposals. She demanded private information that the organizations were not legally obliged to disclose, including financial information and donor lists, in order to be able to subject the supporters of right-leaning groups to legal and financial harassment. This was, as a federal judge confirmed, an obvious and unquestionable violation of the First Amendment.

It was also a serious abuse of power. Harris’s actions were coordinated with those of then attorney general Eric Schneiderman in New York, who argued — preposterously — that Exxon’s taking a different view of global warming was a form of securities fraud. This isn’t a conspiracy theory: They held a press conference and organized their effort into a committee, which they called AGs United for Clean Power.

This was not happening in a political vacuum. At approximately the same time, the IRS was being weaponized to harass and disadvantage right-leaning nonprofits and policy organizations, for example, leaking the confidential tax information of the National Organization for Marriage as an act of political retaliation, an offense for which the IRS was obliged to pay a settlement. (The IRS’s other abuses, as in the Lois Lerner matter, remain largely unpunished.) A lawyer with connections to Barack Obama and Andrew Cuomo attempted to extort billions of dollars from Chevron in a mammoth racketeering project that involved falsifying evidence and bribing judges, a project that was cheered on by green activists such as musician Roger Waters and Democratic operatives such as former Cuomo aide Karen Hinton, both of whom had negotiated for themselves a percentage of the settlement. That went on until a federal judge intervened on RICO grounds. Democratic voices in the media were calling for the authorities to — this part is even less subtle —“arrest climate change deniers,” a project to which activists such as Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. lent their voices.

And this was not idle talk: As with Harris’s abusive investigation in California, a legal pretext was offered, albeit a patently ridiculous one.

Harris’s self-serving prosecutorial abuses have been directed at political enemies, but they also put hundreds — maybe thousands — of people in jail or at risk of prosecution on wrongful grounds when it suited her agenda. As Lara Bazelon of the Loyola law school wrote in the New York Times:

Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.

Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.

Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed.

In the context of Harris’s political vendettas, that eagerness to engage in “systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights” is particularly terrifying.

In choosing this corrupt prosecutor as his vice-presidential candidate, Joe Biden has made a serious error, one that highlights his already substantial deficiencies in judgment.

I wonder how Black Lives Matter will feel about this, from Lara Bazelon of Loyola University in Los Angeles:

With the growing recognition that prosecutors hold the keys to a fairer criminal justice system, the term “progressive prosecutor” has almost become trendy. This is how Senator Kamala Harris of California, a likely presidential candidate and a former prosecutor, describes herself.

But she’s not.

Time after time, when progressives urged her to embrace criminal justice reforms as a district attorney and then the state’s attorney general, Ms. Harris opposed them or stayed silent. Most troubling, Ms. Harris fought tooth and nail to uphold wrongful convictions that had been secured through official misconduct that included evidence tampering, false testimony and the suppression of crucial information by prosecutors.

Consider her record as San Francisco’s district attorney from 2004 to 2011. Ms. Harris was criticized in 2010 for withholding information about a police laboratory technician who had been accused of “intentionally sabotaging” her work and stealing drugs from the lab. After a memo surfaced showing that Ms. Harris’s deputies knew about the technician’s wrongdoing and recent conviction, but failed to alert defense lawyers, a judge condemned Ms. Harris’s indifference to the systemic violation of the defendants’ constitutional rights.

Ms. Harris contested the ruling by arguing that the judge, whose husband was a defense attorney and had spoken publicly about the importance of disclosing evidence, had a conflict of interest. Ms. Harris lost. More than 600 cases handled by the corrupt technician were dismissed.

Ms. Harris also championed state legislation under which parents whose children were found to be habitually truant in elementary school could be prosecuted, despite concerns that it would disproportionately affect low-income people of color.

Ms. Harris was similarly regressive as the state’s attorney general. When a federal judge in Orange County ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional in 2014, Ms. Harris appealed. In a public statement, she made the bizarre argument that the decision “undermines important protections that our courts provide to defendants.” (The approximately 740 men and women awaiting execution in California might disagree).

In 2014, she declined to take a position on Proposition 47, a ballot initiative approved by voters, that reduced certain low-level felonies to misdemeanors. She laughed that year when a reporter asked if she would support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Ms. Harris finally reversed course in 2018, long after public opinion had shifted on the topic.

In 2015, she opposed a bill requiring her office to investigate shootings involving officers. And she refused to support statewide standards regulating the use of body-worn cameras by police officers. For this, she incurred criticism from an array of left-leaning reformers, including Democratic state senators, the A.C.L.U. and San Francisco’s elected public defender. The activist Phelicia Jones, who had supported Ms. Harris for years, asked, “How many more people need to die before she steps in?

Worst of all, though, is Ms. Harris’s record in wrongful conviction cases. Consider George Gage, an electrician with no criminal record who was charged in 1999 with sexually abusing his stepdaughter, who reported the allegations years later. The case largely hinged on the stepdaughter’s testimony and Mr. Gage was convicted.

Afterward, the judge discovered that the prosecutor had unlawfully held back potentially exculpatory evidence, including medical reports indicating that the stepdaughter had been repeatedly untruthful with law enforcement. Her mother even described her as “a pathological liar” who “lives her lies.”

In 2015, when the case reached the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco, Ms. Harris’s prosecutors defended the conviction. They pointed out that Mr. Gage, while forced to act as his own lawyer, had not properly raised the legal issue in the lower court, as the law required.

The appellate judges acknowledged this impediment and sent the case to mediation, a clear signal for Ms. Harris to dismiss the case. When she refused to budge, the court upheld the conviction on that technicality. Mr. Gage is still in prison serving a 70-year sentence.

That case is not an outlier. Ms. Harris also fought to keep Daniel Larsen in prison on a 28-year-to-life sentence for possession of a concealed weapon even though his trial lawyer was incompetent and there was compelling evidence of his innocence. Relying on a technicality again, Ms. Harris argued that Mr. Larsen failed to raise his legal arguments in a timely fashion. (This time, she lost.)

She also defended Johnny Baca’s conviction for murder even though judges found a prosecutor presented false testimony at the trial. She relented only after a video of the oral argument received national attention and embarrassed her office.

And then there’s Kevin Cooper, the death row inmate whose trial was infected by racism and corruption. He sought advanced DNA testing to prove his innocence, but Ms. Harris opposed it. (After The New York Times’s exposé of the case went viral, she reversed her position.)

All this is a shame because the state’s top prosecutor has the power and the imperative to seek justice. In cases of tainted convictions, that means conceding error and overturning them. Rather than fulfilling that obligation, Ms. Harris turned legal technicalities into weapons so she could cement injustices.

In “The Truths We Hold,” Ms. Harris’s recently published memoir, she writes: “America has a deep and dark history of people using the power of the prosecutor as an instrument of injustice.”

She adds, “I know this history well — of innocent men framed, of charges brought against people without sufficient evidence, of prosecutors hiding information that would exonerate defendants, of the disproportionate application of the law.”

All too often, she was on the wrong side of that history.

Speaking of history, according to The Hill:

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that she believes women who say they felt uncomfortable after receiving unwanted touching from former Vice President Joe Biden.

“I believe them and I respect them being able to tell their story and having the courage to do it,” Harris said at a presidential campaign event in Nevada. …

In recent days, several women have come forward to allege that Biden has touched them inappropriately.

Former Nevada state lawmaker Lucy Flores, a Democrat, made the first accusation last week in an essay in New York magazine’s The Cut. On Monday, Amy Lappos told the Hartford Courant that Biden also touched her inappropriately at a 2009 fundraiser in Connecticut.

Two additional women, Caitlyn Caruso and D. J. Hill, came forward Tuesday, sharing their experiences with The New York Times.

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